Sustainable Business/The business profile
The business profile is designed to be an overview of your business and the business plan. It should provide readers with a quick overview of your business, including your values and objectives, so they can get an immediate feel for what you’re doing and where you’re going. Ideally it should be no more than five pages. Comment only on sections relevant to your business.
- The business profile should cover the following areas
The purpose of this section is to capture the interest of the reader by summing up in one or two brief paragraphs the nature of your business. Remember that if you have not started your business yet then some information may be impossible to get (like the market size for a new product or untested service). If this is the case, do not worry — just make sure you state where key information is missing.
Underneath this brief overview should be some simple information such as what type of legal structure has been chosen for the business (sole trader, partnership or company) and your contact details, such as name, address and current situation.
This section discusses the following:
Offer a brief history of the business so far: how long you have been in business, plus any major events that have shaped the enterprise. If you are not yet in business, then talk briefly about your own background.
Here you state what you are hoping to achieve with the business short-term and long-term. Short-term objectives would be within a one to two-year time frame, with long-term planning ranging out to five years.
- Products or services
Products or services that you are offering to the public must be described. Avoid technical jargon; instead describe the business for the average reader. You may know your business inside out, but potential readers will not. Get a friend who knows nothing about the business to read this section and comment on its clarity. If the reader of the business profile does not have a clear idea of what you are doing or intend to do, then the rest of the plan will not make the impression you are seeking.
- Patents and trademarks
Comment on any patents or trademarks that may be relevant. Most businesses will not have to bother with patents as the great majority of businesses are copies, alterations, or developments of existing business ideas. Check with your lawyer if you think your idea is special.
Also mention any contracts for work or any other legal obligations or protection that you may have.
Talk about the location of the business if this factor is important. If you intend becoming a retailer, then the location is crucial (good foot traffic and parking is a must).
A manufacturer may need to be near a major road, distribution centre, railway siding or port. If you can validate the logic of where you intend setting up (from the demographic information available from Statistics New Zealand) then this will greatly strengthen your case.
If you are already in business, then you should explain the impact of your location upon your business.
- Your reasons for starting a business
It is useful to consider what is important to you in terms of how you run your business to help you know how to spend your time and what to pay attention to.
Every day in the business, there will be decisions to make about how to do business. It will be helpful to have clarity over what is most important to you about how you run your business and what your bottom lines are to ensure you continuously make decisions in line with what is important to you.
Rank the following values from 1 to 8 with 1 being the most important value to you: (this needs work)
Making a living for myself and/or my family
Being the best and most well known at my business
Contributing toward a healthy, sustainable planet for future generations to inherit
Being a contribution to other people – both in my local community and elsewhere
Being a good employer – being committed to employees satisfaction, development and wellbeing and treating everyone fairly
Encouraging others to treat the environment and people with respect
Having a good balance between how much time I spend working vs other things that are important to me (family, hobbies etc)
Treating everyone I interact with fairly
All my decisions are honest and ethical
And to support me in operating this way, how do I ensure that those I work with know what is important to me and are able to integrate it into the way they do business?
Business management/advisors, networks and support
Describe the various personal, professional and business support networks you have access to, as these will impact upon your business success. Accountants, lawyers, business advisors or friends who are in business can be invaluable in giving practical advice to you.
Likewise, join your local business organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce (see www.nzchambers.co.nz) the Employers’ Association, the Economic Development Agencies, Manufacturers’ Association or your industry sector’s professional associations. Find your industry association through www.businessnz.org.nz. Chatting to people in business is worth gold.
If you are working with other businesses (for example, you are subcontracting work out) then include their credentials.
This is a very important part of the profile as it sets out the ‘story’ in which your business is the main character. You should cover topics the following topics.
- Market size
Include information on market size if you can find it. For example, if you are targeting the female market then you could probably guess that the population is roughly half female. However, what about professional career women aged 35–50, living in cities that you think might be your niche market? Statistics New Zealand can tell you (based on the last census) where the greatest concentration of this type of person lives.
“This is fine,” you might say, “but will they buy from me?” That is where estimating the market size starts to have limitations. Until you start, who knows exactly how many will buy from you? Some sampling of the market will help, but in the end you will never be totally sure. So do not spend too much time worrying about market size if you cannot find the data. Concentrate instead on identifying your target market(s).
- Target market
This should be the most common type of customer who is likely to buy from you. By carefully describing your target market and then designing promotional tactics aimed just at them, you are reducing wastage in the money you spend on advertising. This point is reinforced in more detail in the marketing section of this business plan.
- Industry characteristics
Mention what makes the industry you are working in different, such as being labour intensive (if you are a market gardener) or the need for specialised skills or equipment.
Can you identify important trends in your business area? For example some businesses are rapidly becoming far more technology based (such as one-hour photo shops where the move is into digital photography) and some are finding international trends are affecting their industry (such as the deregulation of trade barriers allowing easier imports and exports). Other businesses are finding that International markets have increasing environmental standards and regulations for products.
Outline what sustainability means to your business and how you apply it. (See the booklet "Sustainable business practice")
For instance consider how you make sure your product or service has as little impact on the environment as possible or how you will make it easy for others to make sustainable choices or how the business will be a positive contribution in its community.
Do not fall into the trap of saying, “we have no competition”. If you are indeed lucky enough not to have any direct competitors (very unlikely) then you will still be competing for the disposable dollar.
For example, let’s say you are the only butcher in a small town. You will still be competing against all the other food suppliers, the local Lotto shop, picture theatre and even the bank (which wants customers to invest or save their money). Any way in which that dollar could possibly be diverted away from your business is competition.
You should list the biggest threats and briefly mention how you intend to combat these competitors.
Outline how e-commerce will impact on your business, and what you have planned to take advantage of this change. This may not simply mean establishing a website, as e-commerce is more about how you do business and communicate with suppliers and customers.
Explain how you intend to build a long-lasting business; one that will continue to create revenue streams and build value.
Relevant business achievements
You need to list your specific business achievements and the achievements that relate specifically to the business plan you are writing.
Topics that could be covered include:
- Competitors you have encountered
- Your investment in terms of money and ‘sweat equity’
- Legal protection
- Markets you have researched
- Customer feedback and market research conducted
- Trials of new products or services
- Future products/services potential
- Technology advancements or innovations
- Management ability or qualifications
- The team you have gathered.
Other topics that might impact on your business
For example, the types of legal regulations that may impact upon your business (the local council may have restrictions on the type of business you can conduct in your chosen location). Inland Revenue will certainly want to know that you are in business so they can collect any tax due to them.
Will you register for GST? Do you need insurance? Any special licences or permits required? Do you operate in an industry that has specific needs? For example, tourism, agricultural, technological and export businesses have different dynamics and circumstances.
Remember too that you’ll be obliged to comply with environmental and health and safety legislation such as the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. These requirements may involve compliance and/or monitoring costs, and you’ll need to plan for ongoing compliance and any contingencies that may arise.
Many contractual situations will require you to demonstrate compliance with the relevant legislation, accreditation to particular standards, and/or to hold public liability insurance. For instance, your business may need to meet international quality and environmental standards such as ISO 9000 and ISO14001 in order to quote or tender for work. Likewise a contractor working on other people’s property or in public spaces would certainly need public liability insurance.
Thinking ahead about your level of compliance, and even how you might go beyond it, and including this in your business profile will give you more time to better deal with individual business opportunities as they arise.